Altamont’s 2022-23 budget down 3%

— Enterprise file photo
Altamont is finally wiping more than $100,000 from its balance sheet, which it had been carrying since 2018-19 for upgrades to the brick veneer of the firehouse.

ALTAMONT — At $2.38 million, the village of Altamont’s preliminary budget for 2022-23 is down about 3 percent from this year’s adopted spending plan.

The board of trustees will hold a public hearing on next year’s budget on April 5, at 7 p.m., at Village Hall, with adoption likely taking place during the village’s annual reorganizational meeting, also on Tuesday. 

The tax rate for next year is set to increase from $1.998 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.095 per $1,000. The rate uptick means an additional yield of almost $11,000 in the property-tax levy, which will increase from approximately $300,100 to $311,000, about $800 below the state-set limit.

The drop in next year’s spending is largely due to a decrease in the village’s general fund, which is slated to shrink by about $80,000 to $1.4 million; this is largely attributable to Altamont finally wiping more than $100,000 from its balance sheet, which it had been carrying since 2018-19 for upgrades to the brick veneer of the firehouse.

A couple of years ago, after bids for the work came in four and five times above the engineer’s estimated cost of $120,000 to $135,000, the village rebid the project and got the same results. After hiring a new engineering firm, the village narrowed the scope of the project, targeting only the worst parts of the building facade instead of upgrading the entire front of the building and around the side to the entrance of Village Hall, while also redoing a part of the apparatus floor that bows under the weight of an Altamont Fire Department truck. 

The village awarded the $106,000 contract to AJS Masonry out of Clifton Park in January. A December contract addendum stipulates the work is to be complete by the end of July. 

One of the general fund’s total line items that is set to drop heading into next year is “culture and recreation,” which encompasses the parks budget, seniors recreation, and the village contribution to the Altamont Free Library. About $193,400 was spent on culture and recreation this year, which is about $10,000 more than what’s proposed in next year’s budget line. 

Next year’s general-fund employee-benefits budget line anticipates a 7-percent decline, from about $177,500 to approximately 164,800, largely due to a $14,000 year-over-year drop in payments to the state fund for police and firefighter retirement.

 

Salary bumps

Some of the spending declines in next year’s general budget are being offset by noticeable salary bumps, with all elected officials, the police department, Village Hall staff, and department of public works employees receiving raises. 

Mayor Kerry Dineen’s salary will nearly double from about $5,300 to $10,000, while trustees’ compensation will increase by about 56 percent, from approximately $3,200 to $5,000. For comparison, down Route 156 in the village of Voorheesville — population 2,841 compared to Altamont’s 1,675 — Mayor Rich Straut is set to make $15,000 next year, with trustees taking home $6,7500 each. 

With Treasurer Katherine Hasbrouck set to retire next year (she’s on the books for $10,000 in 2022-23), her part-time position will see an over 20-percent increase, from about $22,000 to approximately $27,000. The village hired Jaimee Motschmann of Westerlo in January to take over for Hasbrouck. 

 

Police 

Altamont Police Chief Jason Johnston is making good on a promise to raise his officers’ salaries while keeping his department spending completely flat for next year, at $185,880.

At a budget workshop in March, Johnston told trustees that Altamont’s police officers are “tragically underpaid.” He said other area departments with part-time officers have starting salaries as much as 50-percent more per hour. 

The department has been saving money on officer hours because Johnston has been back on the patrol beat since becoming full-time chief in September, and estimated the department could save approximately $20,000 per year in personnel costs with him working more patrols. 

Johnston’s goal was to place his existing officers into pay tiers based on service time, which he appears to have done with next year’s budget. 

The lowest an Altamont officer will be paid in 2022-23 is $20 per hour, this year it was about $17; officers with the most seniority will earn $23 per hour next year, an increase of about $1.70 per hour. 

 

Costs and revenues

The village’s largest expenditures for next year are expected to be:

— Public safety, both police and fire, about $319,000;

— Transportation, the snow removal and road construction performed by the village’s department of public works, about $304,000;

— General government support, about $223,000; and

— Employee benefits, about $165,000.

On the revenue side, Altamont expects to pay for its services with:

—  $311,000 in property taxes;

— $585,000 in county sales tax, which is usually estimated low and comes in high, even during the worst of the pandemic;

— About $139,000 from fire-protection services;

— Close to $45,000 from renting village property, most of which comes from a lease agreement for a cell tower on village property on Agawam Lane;

— $38,000 in cable franchise fees; and

— $20,000 from fines and forfeited bail. 

 

Water and sewer

Altamont’s water and sewer funds are looking generally flat heading into next year. 

The village sewer fund is on the road to self-sufficiency after trustees adopted a $110-per-user fee in December that will be used to help pay down the debt on multi-million-dollar upgrades made in 2013 to Altamont’s waste-water treatment plan on Gun Club Road. 

The village takes $25,000 out of the sewer reserve every year to help pay back the bond on the plant upgrades. But two years ago, trustees were told another $100,000 per year was needed to pay down the debt. 

Two years ago, $70,000 had to be borrowed from the general fund to balance the 2020 sewer fund. For this year’s spending plan, another $105,000 was budgeted to close the gap.

Hasbrouck told trustees at a February budget workshop the number was closer to $160,000, which is because the board accounted for the $110-per-user increase when it adopted this year’s budget in April 2021, but waited to implement the law to increase user fees. 

The sewer fund — projected at about $566,000, up about $400 — will use about $27,000 in reserves to balance its budget next year, and the fee increase set to take effect in April, rents will largely make up the rest, about $523,000.

At about $419,000, the 2022-23 water budget is up about $3,000 over this year. With metered sales anticipated at $325,000 and another $44,000 that comes in the form of renting village land, the water fund will use about $37,000 in reserves next year. 

Tags:

More Guilderland News

  • The May 17 petition filed by Cuyler Court residents William and Colleen Anders claims that, in July 2023, the town’s use of heavy equipment to access “stormwater or water management facilities” caused damage to their driveway and yard, which when combined with Guilderland’s “negligence and failure to maintain certain components” of those facilities, led to “significant flooding” of the Anders’ basement six months later. 

  • The legal decision is the fifth in four years to uphold the town’s approval process of what was initially a three-site development proposal from Pyramid for over 200 apartments and townhomes; a 160,000-square-foot warehouse-price club; and only recently, a $55 million 120,000-square-foot regional cancer center. 

  • Superintendent Marie Wiles says the hope is the added funds will increase the number of places available so that families who were disappointed in lottery results may still have a chance of their children attending. “This is a game changer for our partners,” she said of the preschools the district works with, “and for our community.”

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.